From the Las Vegas Review-Journal
By Dean Heller and Dina Titus
Special to the Review-Journal
Since 1987, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository has been a thorn in Nevada’s side. Because of bad politics, not sound science, Nevada quickly became the federal government’s No. 1 targeted location to permanently store all of the nation’s nuclear waste.
Since then, Nevadans have been fighting tooth and nail to block this misguided proposal — and we aren’t finished yet.
Instead of honoring Nevada’s persistent scientific and procedural objections to the repository, the federal government has spent decades and wasted billions of dollars to design and permit Yucca Mountain without any notion that Nevada would consent to the project. Although we recognize both the role nuclear power plays in diversifying our nation’s energy portfolio and the need to properly store expired nuclear fuel, we will continue to fight against storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.
Nevadans should not be forced to bear the responsibility of storing harmful nuclear waste on behalf of the entire nation, especially when we do not have any nuclear power plants of our own. With help from a number of bipartisan state and federal officials, including former Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada congressional delegation has successfully defunded those efforts and highlighted the potential risks Nevadans could face should Washington bureaucrats order Yucca Mountain’s revival. Throughout our tenures in Congress, we have staunchly fought against waste storage at Yucca Mountain and have introduced legislative efforts to stall advocates’ efforts.
It is clear, however, that more needs to be done.
As senior members of Nevada’s delegation, we took steps last week to do just that. Each of us introduced legislation in our respective chambers that would authorize the federal government to construct a nuclear waste repository only if the secretary of energy has secured written consent from the governor of the host state, the affected units of local government, and the affected Indian tribes. Identifying communities willing to be hosts for long-term repositories, rather than forcing it upon states that have outright opposed such a site for decades, is the only viable solution to our nation’s nuclear waste problem.
This legislation is consistent with the consent-based siting initiative focused on identifying feasible waste storage and disposal facilities initiated by the Department of Energy in late 2015. It was also recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, a 15-member, bipartisan group appointed by President Barack Obama and tasked with studying nuclear waste disposal. This open process ensures all Americans have a meaningful voice in the process if their community is being considered for a future nuclear waste repository.
Taxpayer dollars are better spent securing safe and viable alternatives for the long-term storage of nuclear waste in areas that are willing to house it. The incoming administration and congressional Yucca Mountain advocates should focus their efforts on that worthwhile initiative. Failing to do so and continuing the Yucca Mountain drumbeat would simply squander more time and scant federal resources that could be better spent pursuing viable solutions to this important public policy challenge.
Rest assured, expired nuclear waste from commercial plants will not be housed in the Silver State without our consent. We are united in leading the effort to ensure the Yucca Mountain repository does not move forward. Nevada is not a wasteland.
Dean Heller, a Republican, represents Nevada in the U.S. Senate. Dina Titus, a Democrat, represents Nevada’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House.